Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Part M rant

While at work yesterday, the topic of Part M of the Building Regulations came up in conversation with another adviser (I'd been advising on building regulations. yeah, that was one of those ones which makes me go "argh!") Part M relates to access to buildings and is the part which covers disability issues. As with most disability related legislation in this country it's not really worth even the paper it's written on.

I advised my client over the phone and so she didn't know that I have a disability. One of the things she mentioned was that because of Part M they had had to ensure their property had wheelchair access.

We got to talking about that after I finished with the client. The other adviser thinks requiring all new buildings including houses to have wheelchair access is stupid and is "putting the cart before the horse" and that when you get to the point you need a wheelchair if you do you should put one in yourself then.

She did think that doorways should be made wide enough from chairs from the get go because "they are harder than ramps." That surprised me because she is usually one of the best at awareness/accessibility issues (I refuse to go down the new PC route and replace those two terms with "equality").

I think it's a valid idea and that they did have to start somewhere. It is not the place I would have chosen to start and part of me does consider that whilst its a great idea insisting all new buildings have wheelchair access, the effort may be better put in ensuring that public buildings have full wheelchair access including lifts etc. I also seriously think that someone should rewrite both Part M and the DDA so they aren't so bloody wishy washy and vague.
The other part of me (the biggest part of me) wants to shake my head sadly at my fellow adviser because I thought she understood but she really doesn't get it and all new homes having to have level/ramped access is HUGE.

But then I suspect my friend has never been stopped from visiting a friend at home because she lives in a house with step access and she can handle the steps despite her disability but can't help you up them. I have. And she doesn't have to get up the steps into her mums house with help. I have and I can manage it but I've also fallen doing it several times. She can just do it. I bet you anything however, if she ever moves from TAB to PWD she'll change her tune pretty sharpish.

The cynic in me does also believe however that the Govt brought the access to all new houses bit in to save them money because they would end up funding most new ramps under the DFG scheme if people became disabled and needed one but if building firms etc have to put them in from the get go they fund them.

Insisting on level/ramped access to all new buildings including private homes. A good idea or not? Discuss.


carrie said...

Oh, definitely, definitely a good thing. I cringe as a friend (who has CP, and uses a wheelchair) tells me of the undignified ways he has to use to get into other people's homes. Why should he? Why should you? And why, if it comes to that, should you have so much less choice about where you live, because most homes are not accessible? This should (in theory) begin to address those issues, and they are not insignificant. And quite apart from all that, as a mother of two (with an intermittently seriously crappy back), when the children were little, what would I have given to be able to just glide that buggy into the house, instead of dragging it up steps? These regulations benefit everyone, ultimately.

Disgruntled Ladye said...

I'm all for making all new buildings, homes included accessible to all. Universal design helps everyone, not just those who use wheelchairs.

Here in the states, it will be a long time, I believe, before universal design is accepted and common practice, but some builders are starting to embrace it. Centex Homes has a model in Virginia (in a Washington, DC suburb, I believe) that uses design principles to accommodate people of all abilities. All hallways and doors are wider. The stair steps are larger, and the stair well is wider to allow for a chair lift.

I felt horrible, many years ago, when a friend of mine who has muscular dystrophy came to a party at my parents' house. He can walk short distances, but the single stair to enter the front door and the stairs to get to the living room upstairs were very difficult for him to handle on his own. At the very least, it would have been nice if he could have wheeled right in to the house and we could have had the party on the main floor. Universal design/accessibility would have made this a non-issue.

Jacqui said...

I think its a great idea. Wish we had it here. Shame the regulations are so poorly written though.

Tokah said...

I think its ridiculous that we still build completely non-visitable houses in the states. Universal design makes a lot more sense. Putting a ramp in when you become disabled is nice and all, but what about your friends, elderly relatives, etc?

Christamae said...

I think this is an excellent idea and should have been done a long time ago...I also wanted to Congratulate you on your improved health...

Take care,
Ones Who Care


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